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OPINION: The Best Defence is a Good Offence


Alberta Municipalities Billboard (Photo supplied by ABMunis)

Alberta's municipalities have long been the bedrock of community life, providing essential services and representing the interests of their residents. However, recent legislative proposals by the provincial government—specifically Bills 18, 20, and 21—have sparked a wave of frustration and concern among municipal leaders and citizens alike.


Instead of passively reacting to these proposed changes, municipalities across Alberta are adopting a more proactive stance, engaging in council motions, and now, a robust marketing campaign spearheaded by Alberta Municipalities to demand better consultation processes.


It is crucial to understand why Bills 18, 20, and 21 have become such flashpoints. These bills, introduced by the Alberta provincial government, propose significant changes to municipal governance, funding, and the distribution of powers.


Municipal leaders from both Rural and Urban settings are arguing that these bills undermine local governance, reduce fiscal flexibility, and erode the democratic principle of local representation. The frustration stems not only from the content of these bills but also from the perceived lack of meaningful consultation with municipalities before their introduction.


Historically, municipalities have often found themselves in a reactive posture, responding to provincial mandates rather than shaping them. The introduction of Bills 18, 20, and 21, however, has catalyzed a shift from defence to offence. Across Alberta, municipal councils are adopting a more aggressive approach to defend their interests and assert their role in the legislative process.


One of the first steps in this offensive strategy has been the passage of formal motions by multiple councils, or mayors and reeves going out and speaking to local newspapers and new organizaitons. These motions serve several purposes: they officially record the municipality's opposition to the bills, hope to rally local support, and send a clear message to the provincial government. Edmonton, Rocky Mountain House, Innisfail, High River, Peace River, Moinville, Town of St. Pual, Strathcona Conty, Airdrie, Blackfals, and Olds (to only name a few) have all called on or sent the governments letters asking for Bill 20 to be either scraped or paused. These motions are not merely symbolic - or even theatric; they represent a unified front and a coordinated effort to influence provincial policy. By passing these motions, councils are leveraging their collective voice to highlight the detrimental impacts of the proposed legislation and to call for its reconsideration.

The most ambitious and innovative element of the offensive strategy is the marketing campaign launched by Alberta Municipalities.


The marketing campaign aims to educate the public about the importance of meaningful dialogue between the provincial government and municipalities. It highlights how Bill 20's proposed changes could marginalize local input and lead to decisions that do not reflect the needs and priorities of Alberta's diverse communities.


The campaign includes some social media content and now a billboard.


One of the most remarkable aspects of this offensive strategy is the unity it has fostered among Alberta's municipalities. Despite the diversity in size, location, and demographics, municipalities have come together to present a cohesive and determined front. This unity is crucial in amplifying their collective voice and demonstrating to the provincial government that these concerns are not isolated or trivial.


But after this week, Municipalities must maintain their advocacy efforts, keeping the pressure on the provincial government to engage in meaningful dialogue. This involves not only opposing the current bills but also proposing constructive alternatives that address both provincial and municipal concerns. By presenting well-reasoned arguments and viable solutions, municipalities can demonstrate their willingness to collaborate while firmly defending their interests.


Building and maintaining public support is crucial. The success of the marketing campaign a hinges on the continued engagement of residents and stakeholders. Municipalities should continue to educate the public about the issues at stake and encourage active participation in advocacy efforts. Public opinion can be a powerful force in shaping legislative outcomes, and municipalities must harness this power effectively.


As this battle unfolds, it serves as a powerful example of how municipalities can effectively assert their role in the legislative process. By moving from reaction to action, Alberta's municipalities are demonstrating that the best defence is indeed a strong offence.


This shift not only addresses the immediate challenges posed by Bills 18, 20, and 21 but also sets the stage for a more empowered and proactive municipal sector in the future.


Alberta municipalities have proven that teamwork makes the dream work. Maybe the Edmonton Oilers should take some notes—because if municipal councils can unite, surely a bunch of hockey players can figure out how to score!

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